I’m an unrepentant Marvel Zombie. I’ve been reading Marvel comics since the age of 7, I own every issue of all editions of the Official Handbook of the Marvel Universe, including the brand new collected edition, a gift from my good buddy Jaws.
I’ve written a gazillionty Marvel Comics articles for this very site. I’m an insane Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) fanatic with the ability to articulate exactly how the movie versions of the characters differ from the their comic counterparts.
You get the idea.
So when I say that I know the ins and outs of every single Marvel character, it’s not hyperbole. Yet, on very, very rare occasions a Marvel character is rumored for inclusion in the MCU or on Disney+ and I won’t know more than the very basics of the character.
Werewolf by Night is one such character.
Here are the things I knew about Werewolf by Night:
- He’s named Jack Russell, presumably after the terrier.
- He was occasionally featured alongside Moon Knight.
- He tried to do good but was pulled by his werewolf ferocities.
- He had a solo series at some point, although I had never read it.
- He helped raise Wolfsbane’s child? Don’t quote me on this but I think I recall that from a Peter David X-Factor comic.
- Deadpool found him in bed with his wife and shot him in the face.
Otherwise, I didn’t know anything about the character. So it was a real treat to dig into and research Werewolf by Night so I could give you an overview before the character hits Disney+. Let’s go!
Marvel Spotlight was a Marvel title proposed by Stan Lee that ran in the 70s. It was a “try out” book that allowed Marvel creators to take flyers on new characters in the hope that a few would stick with fans.
Marvel Spotlight was further evidence that Stan Lee was indeed The Man, as the first volume of the title successfully introduced solid Marvel characters such as Spider-Woman, Red Wolf, Son of Satan, Ghost Rider, and…Werewolf by Night. Each of those characters were then successfully transitioned into a solo title on the strength of their debut in Marvel Spotlight.
After the test run in Marvel Spotlight #2-4, Werewolf by Night’s solo series ran for 43 issues and featured the first appearance of the Moon Knight in issue #32, as well as a team-up with Greer Grant Nelson that marked her first appearance as Tigra.
The moon must not have been full in the 80s, because Werewolf by Night wasn’t seen much during that period, outside of an occasional guest appearance and Moon Knight #29, an issue that updated his appearance. He then made a comeback in the 90s, where he was a regular in the Morbius series before receiving a 2nd solo series that ran for 6 issues.
Jack Russell and sister Lissa were born in Transylvania to Gregor and Laura Russell, part of a lineage that included a business relationship with the High Evolutionary and possession of the Darkhold, a sinister and ancient text that has appeared in the Agents of SHIELD television show.
Moments before her death, Laura told Jack on his 18th birthday about the curse of lycanthropy that ran in the family. Jack then spent his young adult years shapeshifting into a savage werewolf form on nights the moon was full, as one does. He later learned that the Darkhold was also a family heirloom and things got real weird.
As a descendant of lycanthropes, Jack grows to be a 7-foot-tall human/wolf hybrid during periods when the moon is full and is imbued with superhuman strength, speed, stamina, durability, agility, reflexes, plus a resistance to injury with a fast healing factor.
His superhuman sense of smell carries over to his human form and his teeth and claws are sharpened to the extent he can cut through light metals. Like all werewolves, he can be killed by silvered weapons and is vulnerable to magical attacks.
Later Jack was given the ability to change into a werewolf at will, a process that also allowed him to maintain his human intellect. He took that as a opportunity to become a crime fighter.
Where can us Marvel Zombies expect to see Jack Russell Terrier? He has been rumored to be appearing in the upcoming Moon Knight television series on Disney+, which follows the previous rumors that Russell was expected to appear in the Blade movie.
Marvel rumors are the darnedest thing, but this makes sense in that the Moon Knight series on Disney+ is a logical pairing with the upcoming Mahershala Ali Blade MCU movie. Werewolf by Night appearing in Moon Knight creates a possible connection between the Disney+ show that solidifies the relationship between Werewolf by Night, Moon Knight, and Blade, three characters with a lot of shared comic book background.
Although COVID-19 has the comic book industry in absolute disarray, Marvel had a Werewolf by Night title scheduled for a 2020 comic series as well. Interestingly, the upcoming mini-series won’t feature Jack. It will feature Jake, a new character and Marvel has given no word on this new werewolf’s relationship to Jack.
Curiously, his new Werewolf by Night will be written by a former member of the Black Eyed Peas. It will be set on a Native American Reservation and will feature Red Wolf, a call back to the 70s Marvel Spotlight days.
Speaking of the 70s, Marvel is feeling a little bit like the 70s right now, a decade when the company experimented with different genres. Prior to 1971, the Comics Code Authority prohibited stories about werewolves.
But the code was relaxed which opened the floodgates for Marvel monster books such as The Tomb of Dracula, Tales of the Zombie, and of course, Werewolf by Night. Marvel also featured kung-fu titles at the time, as well as Western genres and more.
We’re seeing something similar in current Marvel comics. Recent titles and upcoming solicitations has given us a little infusion of sword and sorcery, some manga-influenced stuff, YA, and of course some monster stuff.
Maybe present day Marvel is trying to recapture some of that magic from Marvel Spotlight in the 70s? I have no idea. But if so, I’m here for it.